12 Worst TV Series Finales Of All Time
Ah, the TV series finale. Devoted fans spend years watching their favorite TV shows wondering “How will it all end?” Unfortunately, not every great show can stick the landing.
Here are the 12 worst series finales in TV history.
With the highly-anticipated return of ’90s TV juggernaut Roseanne on March 27, let us never forget that the original run gave us one of the most reviled series finales in the history of television.
The show portrayed a “typical” working class American family for years, but the final season introduced a new twist: they won the lottery! Look at all the neat stuff they can have and do!
But it all came to a stop on the series’ last episode, where it was revealed that none of it had really happened: they never won the lottery, family patriach Dan had really died of a heart attack, daughters Becky and Darlene had been dating each other’s boyfriends the whole time, and the entire series had been a story the character Roseanne had written where she changed aspects of her family’s life. The bizarre finale undid years of investment viewers had put into the characters’ lives, leaving fans bewildered and angry.
2. How I Met Your Mother
Diehard fans and casual viewers alike hated this one. After waiting nine seasons to see who the mother would turn out to be, it turned out to be someone whose only purpose was to have the kids to tell the story to, so that Ted could be united with the real love of his life, Robin… who had last been seen marrying his best friend. The writers may never be forgiven for this one.
So many people hated this finale that the producers had to explain themselves to reporters afterwards. Half the fun of watching this serial-killer-hunting-serial-killers was wondering when his past would catch up to him. Even when he marries and has a son, it’s looming over him that it could all come crashing down.
But it never really does, except that he pulls things down upon himself. He seems to pay for his crimes after his last kill, drowning in the water where so many of his victims’ bodies lie… but then, in a totally unnecessary coda, he’s shown to have faked his death and hidden himself in another identity. Now he’s a lumberjack, and he’s okay! Which is still not even remotely okay with the fans.
Throughout the series’ run fans were enthralled by all the weirdness and cryptic symbolism. Polar bears. Smoke monsters. The Dharma Initiative. “Jacob.” What did it all mean? Viewers were convinced that under it all there was a definite explanation. That is, until the final episode where the writers admitted they were just making stuff up along the way and tacked on an ending that revealed all the characters reunited in the afterlife. Okay, great, but what was the point of it all?
5. St. Elsewhere
This popular doctor drama set at the fictional St. Eligius hospital was one of the most beloved shows of all-time during its 1980s run, but its finale made everyone shake their heads. Why? Because, yet again, none of it had happened, it was all in the mind of an autistic kid looking at a snow globe with a replica of St. Eligius in it. And then in the credits, the production company (MTM) killed off their kitten mascot. No, seriously.
The 14-season-long juggernaut of a police procedural had jumped the shark ages before, but the last episode was a soul crusher. They’d killed off or “transferred” most of the rest of the cohesive cast long before but tried to bring them back for one last show. Stokes (George Eads) said no thanks so they kept his part in it but had an extra say his lines.
Willows (Marg Helgenberger), who’d gone off to the feds, came back with a cliché “I know how to stop the bomb!” plot, and the worst of all, long-suffering Sarah Sidle (Jorja Fox) had finally gotten her life back together after separating from ex-husband Gil Grissom, and was on the verge of being promoted to the head of the CSI department… but then Grissom waltzes back into her life and she ditches it all to go back to him. Without him even asking her to.
This popular ’90s sitcom from The Jim Henson Company starred rubber-suited dinosaurs with animatronic faces and spawned a few popular catchphrases from Baby Sinclair (“I’m the baby, gotta love me!” and “Not the Mama!”). So how did this cute, funny series from the creators of The Muppets end? How else?
All the dinosaurs died off. Literally, there was an industrial accident akin to a nuclear winter and they all froze to death, even the catchphrase-spouting baby. A sobering environmental message to be sure, but not exactly a laugh riot.
This other loveable puppet sitcom starring an alien called Alf (short for “alien life form”) was a massive hit for kids and adults alike in the ’80s. Alf even had his own breakfast cereal!
But in the end, Alf fell victim to another accidental cliffhanger ending and was last seen about to be dissected by evil government agents. Explain that one to your kids.
9. Mork And Mindy
What started as a joke cameo on Happy Days landed Robin Williams his signature TV role, the goofy alien Mork living in modern Denver with a woman named Mindy. Eventually they got married and, in a possibly misguided ploy for ratings, had a huge alien baby played by 56-year-old comedian Jonathan Winters.
But the finale took an even more misguided turn when Mork and Mindy jumped back in time to escape a villain and ended up stranded in the Stone Age. The show didn’t know it was cancelled at the time, so there was definitely more story to be told after that. Unfortunately, as it was left, clearly Mork and Mindy ended up freezing with the dinosaurs or something.
10. Little House On The Prairie
This staple of family viewing in the ’70s was based on the classic series of Laura Ingalls Wilder books. For a show that’s often remembered for its wholesomeness, you might be surprised to learn that at the end, there was a mean old land stealer involved and the evicted townsfolk decided to blow up the town rather than leave him any useable buildings. That’s the pioneer spirit for you.
11. Star Trek: Enterprise
Starring Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer, this prequel series to the original Star Trek wasn’t well-liked during its run in the early 2000s but it still managed to eke out four seasons and almost 100 episodes. Until the finale, when it was all revealed to be, you guessed it, not real (sensing a pattern?) – the entire series was a holodeck history lesson in the Star Trek: The Next Generation timeline.
12. Quantum Leap
This time traveling buddy show from the early ’90s featured a guy who kept shifting his consciousness into other people’s heads (and lives) through the 20th century. In the end, he had the choice to go home or to keep “leaping” and apparently after spending the entire series trying to get home, decided nah. A lone title card stating that he never made it home was all the reward you got, and fans were shredded. (Note: this is the second show on this list starring Scott Bakula. Just saying.)